With free agency commencing, the Knicks will have to make a major decision regarding their two restricted free agents, David Lee and Nate Robinson. New York has 8 players on their roster that could play the PF or C position: Curry, Milicic, Hill, Wilcox, Hunter, Sene, Gallinari, Jeffries, and Harrington. So on one hand the Knicks have the depth to let David Lee go. However at a second glance, it’s clear that the team would be hard pressed to replace Lee’s production. Although Hill and Gallinari might develop into NBA starters, none of the above are starting material on a good playoff team. Additionally the Knicks rebounding would suffer significantly, since that group is collectively bad on the glass (save perhaps Hill).
In the backcourt they face a different dilemma. If Robinson departs without a replacement, Toney Douglas would be the only backup for Duhon at the point. At shooting guard, the team would primarily rely on Chandler and Hughes, with Douglas and Joe Crawford as reserves. If last year was any indication, the Knicks can’t afford to be this thin at guard.
At this time the popular opinion is that the Knicks would prefer to keep Lee and might let Robinson leave. Considering the current roster construction, it’s hard to envision that scenario because they have more depth behind Lee than Nate. With this being just the start of free agency, the personnel may differ greatly between now and opening day. Not only do other teams covet Robinson and Lee, giving the team the option to shake up their roster with a sign & trade, but there have been rumors about a few Knicks being desired around the league. The Wizards may wish to reunite with Hughes and Jeffries, Wilson Chandler has been coveted by other teams, and with Yao Ming out for the season the Rockets are in hot pursuit of Eddy Curry. OK that last one I made up, but nonetheless there will be many opportunities that could provide New York with the ability to shuffle their roster.
Not only does the team have to consider this upcoming season, but the one after. The Knicks are poised for making a big splash in free agency next summer, so long term salaries are an issue. New York also needs to think about what talent will be remaining in 2010. Currently they only have 4 players on contract for that season in Curry, Jeffries, Gallinari, and Chandler, with their 2 draft picks this year (Hill and Douglas) likely to join them. While getting rid of both Robinson and Lee would free up their purses, it may leave the cupboard bare for an incoming acquisition. The Knicks will need to balance between making the team attractive for a mega-star and having enough money to bring one in.